Girl Who Couldn’t Speak Uttered First Words to Donkey: ‘I Love You’

by Leigh Scheps of Inside Edition

Feel Good Sunday

The first thing Amber Austwick ever said out loud was “I love you” to a donkey. The 6-year-old is a twin who was born prematurely at 26 weeks. She suffered from complications at birth that forced doctors to perform a tracheotomy. Amber never said a word until she met her four-legged friend at this donkey sanctuary. Her time there is therapeutic, and since her introduction to the donkey, Amber’s become a lot more confident.

BREAKING: Dog Meat Sales Banned at China’s Yulin Festival in Milestone Victory to End Brutal Mass Slaughter of Dogs

Source: Humane Society International, Duo Duo Project

“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade..”

Dogs on their way to slaughter. HSI

Just weeks ahead of China’s annual dog meat festival in Yulin, at which thousands of dogs and cats are brutally bludgeoned to death and sold for their meat, animal campaigners Duo Duo Project and Humane Society International have received reports from Chinese activist and confirmed by three traders at Yulin’s biggest dog meat market Dongkou, that the Yulin government is set to prohibit restaurants, street vendors and market traders from selling dog meat at the event. The ban will come into effect on 15th June one week prior to the festival that begins on the summer solstice of 21st June. It will be strictly enforced with fines of up to 100,000 yuan and risk of arrest for violations.

The news is warmly if cautiously welcomed by Duo Duo Project, HSI and their respective Chinese animal group partners on the ground, all of whom have campaigned for years for an end to the brutality of Yulin and China’s year-round dog meat trade. While campaigners recognise that the ban is temporary and does not yet signal an end to the Yulin event in advance of which dogs are still likely to be killed, it is nonetheless a milestone victory in the ongoing campaign to end mass dog and cat slaughter at Yulin, and is evidence of growing political will from inside China to clamp down on the trade.

Andrea Gung, executive director of Duo Duo Project, says: “Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade. I have visited Yulin many times in the last two years. This ban is consistent with my experience that Yulin and the rest of the country are changing for the better. I am very impressed that the younger generation in Yulin and in China is as compassionate as their counterparts in the rest of world. Duo Duo Project also wants to congratulate Mr. Mo Gong Ming, Yulin’s new Party Secretary, for his progressive and visionary leadership. I hope this will turn out to be the beginning of the end of the dog eating habit in China.”

Peter Li, China Policy specialist at Humane Society International, says: “The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet, but if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolise China’s crime-fuelled dog meat trade. Millions of dogs and cats are stolen each year, including pets, and driven thousands of miles across China to be bludgeoned to death in front of each other. As opposition to this trade has grown within China and across the world, much focus has been placed on the Yulin festival and so it is significant politically that the authorities are taking the outrage to curb this cruelty seriously. At last year’s Yulin festival there were roadblocks set up to deter dog trucks coming in, and now this ban signals further progress. Regrettably, many dogs and cats will still be killed for the Yulin festival in advance of the ban, so their suffering is not over yet, but this is certainly a milestone victory and we commend the Yulin authorities for taking this action.”

Duo Duo and HSI are urging Yulin authorities to make the ban permanent; make public service announcements warning against transporting dogs for the dog meat trade that highlight the new associated penalties; enforce food safety laws and regulations; and build a government facility to house dogs confiscated from the dog meat trade.

More than 10 million dogs and around four million cats are killed every year across China for their meat. Contrary to popular belief, the Yulin festival is not a traditional event but one invented in 2010 by dog meat traders to boost flagging sales. At its height an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 dogs were killed at Yulin, reduced to 2,000 to 3,000 in recent years. Most of the dogs are stolen pets and strays grabbed from the streets still wearing their collars when they reach the slaughterhouse where they are typically beaten to death. Most people in China don’t eat dogs, and pet owners and dog thieves have had numerous violent clashes. The dog meat trade also poses a threat to public health, with the World Health Organisation warning that the trade spreads rabies and increases the risk of cholera.

Last year, a petition with 11 million signatures was handed in to the Yulin government in Beijing on behalf of Humane Society International, Duo Duo Project, RaiseUrPaw, Care2 and Avaaz. The late Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and her dog Gary gathered with the campaigners outside the Chinese Embassy in London to send the petition on its way. Speaking at the event, Fisher said “There is so much animal suffering in the world, and much of it you feel helpless to end. But stopping the Yulin dog meat festival and ending all that suffering is easy. All the Chinese authorities need to do is declare it shut down, and the killing stops. These poor dogs need us to fight for them. Every single one of them is as precious as my dear Gary, every one of them is someone’s best friend.”

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., introduced a congressional resolution last year condemning the Yulin dog meat festival and urging China to end its dog meat trade. He reintroduced it this year, and H. Res. 30 already has the bipartisan support of 153 cosponsors.

http://www.hsi.org/news/press_releases/2017/05/yulin-dog-meat-ban-051717.html

In Memoriam: Well-Known Yellowstone White Wolf Dies Unnatural Death

by John Soltes as posted on Earth Island Journal

“Twelve-year-old alpha female deserved a wild end to her wild life, but that was not to be…”

Photo Neal Herbert/National Park Service
The wolf, pictured above, was one of three rare white wolves in the park and had 14 living pups. Park officials are offering a $5,000 reward for information on who might have shot her.

Officials at Yellowstone National Park first shared the sad news in mid-April: A well-known white wolf in the park had been found severely injured and was later euthanized. Then on May 11, after a necropsy by the US Fish and Wildlife Service forensics laboratory in Oregon, they shared the real shocking news: This wolf, the alpha female of the Canyon Pack, had “suffered from a gunshot wound.”

Details are still emerging on what happened, when and where; the investigation remains active.

It all began on April 11, when hikers discovered “a severely injured” alpha female wolf, according to a press release from Yellowstone National Park. The white wolf, well-known among wolf enthusiasts and park officials, was seen near Gardiner, Montana, the town at the north entrance to the iconic park.

Staff eventually found the wolf in “shock and dying from the injuries,” and made the difficult decision to euthanize the majestic canine. The necropsy confirmed the animal had suffered from a gunshot wound, and park officials believe the incident took place near Gardiner or the Old Yellowstone Trail, located along the park’s northern boundary. The shooting likely occurred on April 10 or 11.

“Due to the serious nature of this incident, a reward of up to $5,000.00 is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for this criminal act,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk said in a press release.

When the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf, which can be gray, black or white in color, was taken off the endangered species list a few years ago, states were given the authority to set up their own wolf management plans. In 2015, Montana saw 210 wolves hunted or trapped. Yellowstone, which is nationally protected, is mostly in Wyoming with slivers of land in Montana and Idaho. Hunting and discharge of firearms are prohibited in the park.

There are approximately 100 wolves in Yellowstone, which is an impressive number given that the canids were once extirpated from the local wilderness. In 1995, wild wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park as part of an extensive recovery program. The population took hold, and now the park features several packs that fluctuate in numbers. The oasis that is Yellowstone is often seen as the best place in the world to view wild wolves.

Of the nearly 100 wolves in the park, only three were known to be white in color. The white wolf who was euthanized in April was 12 years old, twice the average age of a wolf in Yellowstone. She was a leader of the Canyon Pack and could be seen in many areas of the park. “For these reasons, the wolf was one of the most recognizable and sought after by visitors to view and photograph,” the press release states.

I think I saw that alpha female during a wintertime visit in January of this year. Of course, it’s difficult to 100 percent confirm that the sighting was of the Canyon Pack alpha female, but all signs point to this impressive 12-year-old animal being the one…(CONTINUED)

http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/in_memoriam_well-known_yellowstone_white_wolf_dies_unnatural_death/

USDA’s Wildlife Services Sued Again: Enviro Orgs Ask Court to Halt Wildlife-Killing Program in Idaho

Story by Dan Zukowsk as published on EnviroNews.TV

“Conservationists contend that Wildlife Services operates primarily for the benefit of ‘ Welfare’ Ranchers…”

(EnviroNews Nature) — Four conservation groups filed a lawsuit on May 11, 2017, aimed at stopping the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from killing Idaho’s wild animals. The USDA’s Wildlife Services (WS) program killed more than 280,000 mammals and birds in Idaho during 2016. The animals axed include 3,860 coyotes and 72 gray wolves, along with cougars, black bears, feral dogs and more than 273,000 European starlings.

Plaintiffs in the suit include the Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity (the Center) and Predator Defense. The suit alleges that the USDA has never prepared a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“Most people in Idaho would be shocked to learn how many animals Wildlife Services already kills in our state,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a Senior Attorney at the Center. “Now this reckless agency wants to slaughter even more of our black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, ravens, and other wildlife using nightmarish methods like poisons and aerial gunning, without even studying the environmental consequences. Such a lackadaisical approach to wildlife management is not permitted by the law.”

Wildlife Services, an arm of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), is described on the agency’s website as a program to “help people resolve wildlife damage to a wide variety of resources and to reduce threats to human health and safety.” APHIS received $1.1 billion in federal funding for fiscal year 2017.

Conservationists contend that Wildlife Services operates primarily for the benefit of ranchers. The program was the subject of a 2016 exposé in Harper’s Magazine. In a related interview with National Geographic, the author, Christopher Ketcham said, “Since its founding in 1885, Wildlife Services has served one purpose—to clean up the American West for the ranching industry, so they wouldn’t have to deal with predators or other animals they deemed pests.”

EnviroNews has previously reported that, nationwide, WS slaughtered 2.7 million wild animals in 2016. “Wildlife Services is stuck in the barbarism of the 19th century, before the full value of predators in ecosystems was understood,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project.

The USDA’s obscure, century-old wildlife-killing program traps and poisons these great many animals. It swoops in to shoot them from the air using both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Both neck and foot snares are used — methods considered inhumane by many prominent animal rights advocates. It kills coyotes with controversial M-44 cyanide bombs.

In what might be called “collateral damage,” reports of pets being killed are not uncommon. In March, 2017, a cyanide bomb left by Wildlife Services in Pocatello, Idaho killed a dog and poisoned its owner, a 14-year old boy. Between 1985 and 1993, 21 people in Arizona were injured by M-44s. A Utah man was left permanently injured and unable to work after being poisoned by one of the dangerous devices.

“It isn’t just wildlife that is directly harmed by the killing programs,” said Brooks Fahy, Executive Director of Predator Defense, in the press release. “These lethal weapons pose a risk to recreational users of public lands, their pets and the ‘nontarget’ species that die by the hundreds every year.”..”CONTINUED

http://www.environews.tv/051217-usdas-wildlife-services-sued-enviro-orgs-ask-court-halt-wildlife-killing-idaho/

To ALL Mothers Great or Small: We Love and Honor You This Day!

“It is my most sincere hope that no Mother visits this blog, today, but instead is with her family celebrating this day of life and hope.  But should some stray, animal loving mom stray a bit and visit us we would like to dedicate the blog to you and all mothers regardless off number of legs, wings or fins.

Today is yours, we love you all!!!” ~ R.T.


Special Report: KPVI Investigates Cyanide traps and the USDA

story by as broadcast/published on KPVI.com

“This is not the first time the USDA had a run in with the Gate City…”

It’s almost been two months since a Pocatello family lost their dog and almost their son to a cyanide trap set 300 yards behind their house. Since then the USDA says they’ve taken all the traps out of the Gem state. But that hasn’t changed anything to investigators who say they were never notified of the deadly chemical, meant to kill predators, planted around Bannock County.

The incident began in the Buckskin area back in March. Canyon Mansfield says, “I panicked and sprinted down to get my mom.” The 14-year-old and his dog Kasey were 300 yards away from their house. He describes, “Suddenly there’s like a pop and then orange gas spews out.” The Mansfield family dog died and they almost lost their son as well. Theresa Mansfield, Canyon’s mother says, “We didn’t want to believe it was from Cyanide poisoning, but deep down it scared the crap out of us.”

The Cyanide trap was placed on BLM land with no warnings in sight. Investigators found a second trap not far from the first. Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen says, “We’re not Alaska. There are wilderness places where people go. I don’t care what the purpose is. If it’s endangering public it shouldn’t be there.”

Since the death of Kasey there’s been a worldwide outcry. The Bannock County’s Sheriff’s office has launched their investigation. The city has also stepped in. In March Pocatello’s Mayor Brian Blad wrote a letter to the USDA asking them to stop manufacturing Cyanide Traps, or M-44’s, in the city. Since then the agency reached out to the mayor. He says he toured the facility, learned about their safety precautions and products “They’re going to continue to do their practice until congress acts,” said Blad.

This is not the first time the USDA had a run in with the Gate City. Seven years ago the agency was responsible for illegally setting “Quick Kill” traps, meant for Rock chucks within city limits. Obtained by KPVI in an incident report by Pocatello’s animal control, an elderly woman called them after finding a cat trapped alive in a “quick kill” trap or Conibear trap in her backyard. She admitted to the city she requested the traps from the USDA. She says at least three cats had been killed before and they were removed by the local USDA representative Todd Sullivan. Sullivan is the same man involved in the Mansfield investigation. In 2010 the charges against Sullivan were dismissed by a federal judge.

The city and USDA came to an agreement that they would not place Conibear traps in Pocatello without notifying the city first. The USDA declined to speak to KPVI on camera, but gave us a written statement answering our questions. They told us, the incident involving the Mansfield Dog is still under investigation and can’t comment. But claimed they had “107 M-44’s set on 16 properties in the state and all have been removed.” Our request to tour the Pocatello manufacturing facility was denied, they say because of security concerns.

The agency tells us the Pocatello location has been manufacturing M-44 deceives since 1969. And also handles, “Gas cartridges for fumigating rodent burrows, rodent grain baits…, predator lures, and repackages other products such as order control products and animal immobilization drugs.”

The sheriff’s investigation is now left in the hands of county prosecutors to find if any state laws were violated. In the meantime, the sheriff says this to residents, “We now have to be aware of our surroundings. If there is something that is out there that is not part of… leave it alone, leave it alone,” Nielsen said.

Bucket’s Eye-View of Desert Animals Drinking Water Is Uniquely Surprising

by John Wells as published on ReShareWorthy.com

“Something a little different for today…water; the essence of life.  Wild Burros actually dig water holes in the desert which help and aid other critters in their quest for the rare, arid commodity.  This piece is artfully crafted and well worth the watch.  Enjoy.” ~ R.T.


John Wells is a researcher of alternative energy and sustainability who lives in Terlingua, Texas. The area is a desert, so water is in short supply. He decided to capture an incredibly cool perspective of the animals living in the area by placing a GoPro camera in a water bucket. He ended up capturing roosters, birds, a rabbit, burro and a steer.

Wells writes:

“Everybody loves water in the desert. I was pleasantly surprised during the edit to see that George made an appearance. I know him from all the other rabbits because of the tiny notch in his ear. A burro just happened to come by in time to be included. Ben [the steer] went against the script and decided to just nudge the bucket. You can lead a steer to water but you can’t make him drink. Note: The swimming bees were rescued.”

Share this surprisingly entertaining and unique “bucket’s eye-view” with your family and friends!

Read more at http://www.reshareworthy.com/buckets-eye-view-of-animals/#6Iz45hHeTGv9psgI.99

Feel Good Sunday: Donkey offers Finals Week stress relief for Snowflakes at Montana State

Source: Multiple

“Thanks to the kindness of the gentle donkey as his gentle spirit reaches out to privileged college students who do not realize that adult life has no safe harbors or feel good zones.  In the real world it is those who reach out, extend and open up who succeed in making a difference and NOT those who suck their thumbs and hug their security blankets while the world falls apart around them.

This is a lesson that teaches that through the eyes of an equine a soul can be touched and inner peace has the potential to be achieved.  We can only hope that the generation of entitlement and privilege learns that life is not a handout but instead a ‘reach-out’ to the natural beauty and efficiency that surrounds us…before it is too late.” ~ R.T.


A donkey named Oliver joined several therapy dogs offering stress relief during Finals Week at Montana State University in Bozeman.

The 8-year-old brown and white donkey was standing inside the front entrance of the university library on Tuesday. Owner Stephanie Bar tells the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that since it was Oliver’s first time at MSU, she wanted to make sure he got a lot of attention.
Students petted Oliver, hugged him and took selfies.

In another part of the library, students sat on the floor and played with dogs provided by volunteers with Intermountain Therapy Animals.

Sierra Bosley says she looks forward to seeing the dogs at the end of each semester.

Feel Good Sunday: Home Sweet Home for Donkey Survivors of the Skin Trade

By the

The National Council of SPCAs in South Africa is delighted to report a positive, uplifting and heart-warming outcome relating to donkeys rescued from the horrific trade in their skins.

We report that five donkeys have arrived at a beautiful property in Bethlehem in the Free State where they will live out the rest of their lives. The donkeys were adopted according to the standard procedure, which involves a formal application to adopt an animal, including demonstrating that one is able to afford private veterinary fees and committing to looking after the animal for the rest of its natural life.

A further 14 donkeys will travel shortly to a new home. Their adoptions have been approved as all the required administrative procedures have been undertaken.

These donkeys were rescued in the Sani area in early 2017. They were initially cared for at the Sani SPCA, but since their operation is not far from the Lesotho border post, it was feared that the donkeys might be stolen. Their welfare and safety were top priorities, so a decision was taken to move the donkeys to other SPCAs.

The journey to their temporary homes started early on the morning of 24 February 2017, when they were safely loaded into trucks and their journey to the Benoni SPCA and the Kloof and Highway SPCA began. No issues were encountered. Several stops were made en route to Johannesburg to provide water and facilitate checks by our inspectors and veterinarian.

The end of the story is a very uplifting one not only for the donkeys, but for all the dedicated staff involved who worked tirelessly to ensure their safety and to secure their future.

Donkey hide contains a gelatine which is claimed to carry medicinal properties. The gelatine is a key ingredient in China’s ejiao industry, which produces tablets, tonics and a sweet syrup. Donkeys from all over the world are slaughtered, often illegally after being stolen, and their hides exported to China to fuel demand for ejiao.

The “donkey skin trade” continues, but so do our efforts to monitor situations, respond to information received and to take whatever steps may be appropriate when necessary. Criminal charges have been laid in several instances, cases brought before the Courts and convictions obtained. The National Council of SPCAs commits to combatting the scourge of the donkey skin trade tirelessly and steadfastly.

http://animalpeopleforum.org/2017/04/22/home-sweet-home-for-donkey-survivors-of-the-skin-trade/

From the Land Down Under: “China Wants Our Donkeys Dead or Alive!”

OpEd by Andrea Jenkins – Donkeys of Australia

Over the past few months I have read many articles about donkeys. There was one article I read a couple of weeks ago though that really hit a nerve.

The article included a stunning picture of a donkey, gazing out from his paddock. The barb wire that cut across in front of him indicated that he stood just behind a fence. It led me to imagine a stranger stopping road side with camera in hand, readying the exposure for the autumn sunlight and the yellow daisies. He waits, aware that the donkey has his ears pricked and stands attentive to this new energy invading his home. Curious, this gentle, wise creature meanders over to say hello. The stranger shoots and then is gone, taking a moment in time with him to use as he wishes.

I don’t know this donkey personally. Perhaps he is your donkey? Or someone you know? I imagine other photos he stands in, cuddled by the grandkids, lazing in the sun, a beloved family member that sits in frames on the mantelpiece for the world to see.

I’d love to own this donkey, yet I’m happy I don’t. I don’t think I could bare it. The stranger has not taken this particular photo to show how cherished and adored this donkey is. Mortified, I read the caption: good enough to export.

Yes, sadly, this donkey has become the latest face for donkey export to China. He is pitted next to the words of Barnaby Joyce as a creature with a price tag, an economic commodity, an edible product worthy of export. The nerve it struck was raw. It rocked me to my core. How can we be asked to look at this magnificent creature and see it as a dead product being shovelled into the mouths of those that search for a miracle elixir for eternal youth and vitality?

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Like I said, I’ve read many articles about donkeys over the past few months. In fact, I’ve read, watched, spoken on the phone and data analysed the horrors the ‘insatiable’ appetite for Ejiao brings crashing to our shores.

It’s been extremely challenging for me to witness the creature I love more than anything get decimated in such a brutal way, but I feel I must walk with them through this struggle as they have walked with us through constant struggles throughout time. I must stand with them now and help their voices be heard. It is with their characteristic traits of love, compassion and humility that I proceed to further my education and, hopefully, the education of others, with regard to the issues facing Australian donkeys.

I am sure many of you have read the horrors that are linked with the donkey skin trade. I’m sure you have read that what is, essentially, donkey poaching, has become a regular occurrence in some parts of Africa. I’m sure you have read about the exorbitant prices donkeys are now selling for and the fact that those living in rural villages can no longer afford to replace their donkeys, leaving them without a means to collect their water or send their children to school. I’m sure you’ve heard of the donkey slaughter houses, the string of animal welfare concerns and the shocking statistics that draw many to believe our beloved donkeys are vanishing from this world. I am not sure, however, that you have been able to find much information on the current Australian situation and what it means for Australian donkeys.

So here I am, writing this article for you. It is my aim in writing that I am able to summarise what I have learned, to date, on Ejiao and how this skin trade is expected to affect our Australian donkeys . I am by no means claiming to be an expert on the matter. I am simply one girl who uses Google and the telephone and has been willing to dive into the hay stack, so to speak, and try and find some answers. This brings me to the second aim in writing this article. It is also a desperate cry for help. It is my wish that we may come up with a structure for research and action together as we venture forward with, and for, our beloved donkeys. What I write now details the journey Ejiao has taken me on so far.

When I first heard whispers that China wanted our donkeys, I wrapped myself in the safety net I, and many others, naively believed we had. It seemed that we did not have the numbers of donkeys required to make the idea of donkey export viable. That teamed with the vast and unforgiving landmass the donkeys inhabited seemed to make the cost too much for a return that was far too small. It still seemed that culling was the preferred method of eradication.

Yet, as time passed, donkey populations in China—and globally—started to dwindle, demand for Ejiao skyrocketed, pressure on global markets to supply the increase in demand grew exponentially and the viability of exporting donkeys to China suddenly changed as the price tag kept rising. Pressured with ongoing enquiries the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources (NTDPIR) compiled a report into the potential of donkey farming in the Northern Territory (September 2016).

Again, even though the report ultimately found that donkey farming was viable, either as a stand- alone venture or complimentary to the cattle industry, I thought we had a safety net. The safety net seemed to be that there was no Tier 2 processing facility and no operational export protocols to China. Reading that the capital outlay required for such a facility would be somewhere between the $50-$100 million mark and knowing there were no operational protocols for export to China made it sound, again, that the donkeys were to stay on Australian shores.

Yet, as I researched further and talked to more people on the phone I began to understand the saying ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ really does apply to the situation here. Everywhere I turned looking for the next piece of the puzzle I got offered a piece that didn’t fit. I found that when I stopped allowing myself to get distracted by the technical jargon of protocols I, instead, found a big picture with most of the puzzle already in place. Like I say, I am only one girl and I am fully aware that I have more research to go, yet this is how I have come to see the big picture so far.

China wants our donkeys. The Australian agribusiness sector wants to expand export opportunities and make as much money as possible. Station owners want the feral donkeys gone. Farmers want ways to diversify their stock to get them through tough times. Multi-species abattoirs are being built with heavy Chinese investment. Chinese investment in Australian agribusiness is seen as desirable. Trial kills of donkeys are currently happening. More wild donkeys are already being rounded up. The Coalition Government has recently signed a Joint Statement with China to hugely expand market access for Australia’s red meat and live animal export industries to China. Barnaby Joyce is publicly announcing that Australia will be providing edible donkey skins to China and pushing it as a big, new market. Tariffs on hides and skins exported to China are being eliminated between 1st January 2017 and 1st of January 2022. The price of wild donkeys being rounded up and sold has already drastically increased.

So what does this all mean? Yes, China will be getting our donkeys. There may be a few little things to sort out in terms of protocols but it is happening. No one is standing in the way and stopping things from progressing forward. Most of the information I have read indicates that wild donkeys will be rounded up and breed as livestock for the Ejiao trade. Edible donkey skins will be exported to China. Some of the donkey meat will be sold within Australia as pet meat. Some of the meat will be sold internationally for human consumption. It also seems that, as the export market to China opens up under these new trade agreements, donkeys could potentially be live exported to China as well.

Even as I write that last sentence, my heart breaks a new. Not only will I be living in a country that potentially has no wild donkeys left. Not only will I be living in a country with fields of donkeys tagged and fattened ready for the slaughterhouse truck. I will also be living in a country that makes the conscious choice to send sensitive, emotional, smart, alive creatures on a ship, destined for a place of unfathomable animal cruelty. Do you think you can live in the country I describe? Unfortunately, this is what we are facing.

Of course there are obvious animal welfare concerns as are always evident with creatures subjected to the tortures of live export, yet there are more subtle and insidious concerns at play too. One thing I am concerned about is that wild donkeys are to be rounded up and sold as breeding stock. Will the breeding jennies have any much needed maintenance and care? Will their hooves be trimmed? Will their health be attended to? An ongoing animal welfare issue with the Ejiao trade is the lack of donkey healthcare as it is only the skin that is deemed valuable making money spent on overall health a waste of finances.

Another concern is the distances donkeys will be transported to abattoirs. The multispecies abattoir being built in Charleville will apparently be transporting donkeys from the Northern Territory and perhaps even South Australia. Will these donkeys be given the required rests, food and water? How tightly will they be packed in? If rounded up from the wild and trucked, how are foals and pregnant jennies going to be cared for? How will they be treated as they are rounded up, trucked and, ultimately, slaughtered? As ‘pests’ donkeys are not given the same protective rights as other animals in Australia. I will admit that I don’t know how far their protective rights are striped due to their classification as pests yet it is important to ensure that their welfare is adhered to at all stages of transport and processing.

Yet another concern I have is how will this big, new market be regulated? Can anyone start farming donkeys? How is the government going to monitor who is involved in this trade and how this trade is carried out on a day-to-day basis? As the avenues for export open up, there needs to be regulation on this trade, right from the small, hobby farms to the largest stations in the country, along with any wild stock that are mustered and sent straight to slaughter. Many of the people who are going to be involved are experienced in the needs of cattle and are not educated when it comes to donkeys. It is my desire that, for those joining this industry, they are required to gain further donkey specific education.

Now I write about my biggest concern: that our wild donkeys will become extinct and we will either be left with donkeys stuck in a horrific cycle of breeding and slaughter or with no donkeys left at all. This concern comes from a couple of factors. One factor is that no one knows how many donkeys we have to start with. There has been no accurate headcount of donkeys in Australia ever. Yet those, like Barnaby Joyce, who are pushing donkey skins as the next big industry, claim on a very public platform that Australia has millions of wild donkeys. This is simply not the case. The NTDPIR has a far more realistic estimate of the number of wild donkeys, stating that they believe there are roughly 50 thousand donkeys in the Northern Territory—although this figure is thought to be about ten years old and is not considered reliable. If we don’t know how many donkeys we have in the first place, how can we know if this trade, and the way it is to be carried out, will be sustainable?

Another factor is that, with the current Ejiao demand, upwards of 4 million donkeys are already believed to be slaughtered each year and the global donkey population literally cannot keep up. This is being reported with the dwindling of numbers in different parts of the world. It is believed donkey populations in China have halved, Mexican donkeys are considered endangered and some are predicting that, if things don’t change, the African donkey could be extinct in as little as five years If indeed our donkey population is somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 our donkeys could be wiped out be Ejiao demand in a matter of weeks. Even if farming does occur in the near future, stock numbers will need to be built up and stabilised. This will take time as donkeys have a long gestation period and do not breed well in stressful situations. If export opens up as we expect it could under these new trade agreements and wild donkeys are sent straight to multi-species abattoirs for processing it might not be long before they are all gone.

In conclusion, I would like to ask that we unite in action going forward. I know it might seem too big an issue to tackle or too graphic an issue to engage with. This does not have to be the case. No action towards this cause will be wasted. Everything counts. I know signing petitions may seem pointless but they are not. One petition to help Australian donkeys, that has over 5,000 signatures, has been mentioned in a news articles that details Barnaby Joyce and his new donkey skin trade desires. It is important that we continue to make our voices heard.

Another suggestion for action is to research a small part of the situation here and report it back to the various donkey societies, or to the facebook page I have created. An area for research might be to keep an eye on how many donkeys are being rounded up, record prices of donkeys at auctions and who is buying, figuring out if the abattoirs near you are exporting donkeys, monitor the news for further information etc. If you are happy to engage with media you could look for news reporters and TV hosts that are willing to run a section on Ejiao (in a respectful manner). You could apply pressure on different organisations to get an accurate population count so that we have more reliable information on the sustainability of the skin trade. You could help change the classification of donkeys as ‘pests’ so they are granted more protective rights.

There are so many ways you can help. Even if it means simply sharing your own donkeys with the wider public more and more in an effort to alter common misconceptions associated with donkeys, perpetrated by the Australian media. It is important that more people come to realise how smart, sensitive and loving these creatures are. The more that people connect with the donkeys, the more of a movement we will be able to create to support them through this crisis.

I thank you so much for taking the time to read the article I have put together and I hope it is has been informative. Below, I have added links to information I have collected and the points that have been touched on through this article. I have also attached the ‘Under the Skin’ campaign by the Donkey Sanctuary UK. If you would like to stay updated on the Ejiao trade, please sign up. Lastly, I would like to say feel free to follow my new Facebook page ‘Donkeys of Australia’. I have set it up with the aim of creating an information hub. Thank you once again for reading and I look forward to working with you to ensure a bright and sustainable future for our donkeys.

Links:

Under the Skin https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/under-the-skin

Donkeys of Australia https://www.facebook.com/Donkeys-of-Australia-1088323071303237/

Petitions:

https://www.change.org/p/australian-donkeys-face-being-bludgeoned-to-death-with- sledgehammers-if-live-exported-to-china

https://www.change.org/p/adam-giles-please-don-t-allow-china-to-export-our-australian-wild- donkeys

Barnaby Joyce http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/other-industries/barnaby-joyce-eyes- potential-new-market-exporting-donkey-skins-to-china/news- story/0d2b690a54e020368b939192d97f5526

New Trade Agreements http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/03/24/donkey-meat-beef- agriculture-australia-china-trade-wider-ever

New Trade Agreements http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2017/03/24/china-talks- trade–prosperity-with-turnbull.html

Donkey Farming Report https://dpir.nt.gov.au/primary-industry/agricultural-developments/donkey- farming

Multi-Species Abattoir Charleville http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-08/charleville-processing- plant-set-to-open-2017/8004938

AACo Abatoir becomes multi-species abattoir http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-11/aaco- darwin-abattoir-buffalo-slaughter/8012144

Application to export to China under new trade agreements http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04- 07/aust-agricultural-company-applies-access-china-beef-market/8417796

Old article indicating the tone of the media when commenting on donkeys-

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/queensland-to-become-the-ass-end-of-australia- 20090621-csw6.html

AusTrade-Information on Tariffs http://dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/chafta/fact- sheets/Pages/chafta-opening-new-opportunities-for-australian-products-in-china.aspx